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Chevron's Lawyers at Gibson Dunn Get Tough in Ecuador Pollution Case

With a $19 billion judgment at stake, Gibson Dunn plays hardball
Oil waste still mars Ecuador, 20  years after litigation began
Oil waste still mars Ecuador, 20  years after litigation beganPhotograph by Teun Voeten/Reporters/Redux

Bit by bit, the largest environmental verdict in history—a $19 billion judgment pending against Chevron for polluting the rainforest in Ecuador—is disintegrating. The collapse threatens to cause collateral damage to a major Washington law firm and a Colorado scientific consultancy that counts state and federal agencies among its clients.

On April 17, the hedge fund Burford Capital, which had invested millions of dollars to bankroll the long-running litigation on behalf of poor farmers and indigenous villagers, leveled accusations of fraud against the lead plaintiffs’ lawyer, Steven Donziger, and his allies at the large Washington-based law firm Patton Boggs. Burford renounced any potential profit from the case because of what its chief executive, Christopher Bogart, described in a sworn declaration as “mounting evidence of fraud and misconduct” by Donziger and Patton Boggs. Bogart said his $300 million litigation-finance outfit had been misled about dubious lobbying of Ecuadorean judges and the ghostwriting of expert findings.